“Like you, I’m from New York,” he said in the handwritten letter, which was taken from Tora’s maximum security prison. “I will go on a hunger strike knowing very well that I cannot survive,” he wrote.
The letter ended: “I am putting my life in your hands.”
The Working Group on Egypt, a bipartisan group of foreign affairs experts, raised Kassem’s case in a letter addressed to Pompeo in June, warning that he was a diabetic with a heart condition that was in imminent danger of death.
Mr. Pompeo responded that the welfare of detained US citizens was a “top priority” for him.
“I am very sad to know today the death of US citizen Moustafa Kassem who had been imprisoned in Egypt,” said Assistant Secretary of the State Department for Near Eastern Affairs, David Schenker, at a press conference on Monday. “His death in custody was unnecessary, tragic and avoidable.”
The issue of medical negligence in Egyptian prisons arose last June, when Morsi collapsed in a soundproof cage during a legal hearing and died. Mr. Morsi’s family, who had complained for years about inadequate medical treatment in prison, blamed Mr. el-Sisi for his death.
The death pressured the Egyptian authorities to improve conditions in prisons, and in November they led foreign reporters on a tour of the Tora prison complex in southern Cairo, where many political prisoners are located.
Prisoner advocacy groups say that in reality little has changed.
In August, Human Rights Watch said Khaled Hassan, an Egyptian-American limousine driver jailed on terrorism charges, had attempted suicide in his cell.
On Monday, the Egyptian National Action Group, an opposition group, said more than 300 detainees in the maximum security wing of the Tora prison had been on a hunger strike since January 5, when an inmate of 47 years died arrested for lack of medical attention.